DCU set to lead Gender Identity Project

DCU is launching a project to reshape children’s attitudes to gender identity through an overhaul of prescribed children’s literature.
DCU’s Centre for Children’s Literature and Culture is spearheading the Creative Europe project ‘Gender Identity: Child Readers and Library Collections’. The project aims to encourage children to reflect on their gender identity in hopes of challenging societal and biological norms.

DCU co-principal investigator Keith O’Sullivan, associate professor in the School of English and director of the Centre for Children’s Literature and Culture, said “While children’s literature has the potential to shape a reader’s understanding of his/her gender identity, readers of children’s books still encounter too few female protagonists that are active agents within narratives, or male characters that challenge a hegemonic masculinity that can be reluctant to show emotion, fragility or dependency.”

The project maintains the theory that gender is a social construct, with the intention of introducing children to an ideology that is debated by many academics. Specialists in the fields of children’s literature, gender studies, translation studies, library science and education will continue to work on this.

Universities such as the University of Bologna and project partners the University of Vigo, University of Paris 13, Regional Library of Veliko Tarnovo and City Library of Sarajevo are collaborating with DCU to complete this project, with each university responsible for a different role.

DCU will direct the creation of the bibliography by its coordinating partners through searching for texts regarding gender identity and supervising their selection at international workshops. Their findings will be shared online for both academics and the public.

In addition, DCU library will dedicate a section to promoting books from the bibliography, as will the other project partners throughout Europe. The project will be supported by various educational activities, such as lectures, public readings, and collaborative events.

This announcement comes only three months after a similar initiative was implemented; the introduction of 54 gender-neutral bathrooms across the three DCU campuses. This move was made in an attempt to create a greater sense of community among all students.

Dean O’Reilly, the chairperson of LGBTA society, said “DCU LGBTA are pleased to hear of DCU’s Children’s Literature and Culture project concerning gender identity. Transgender and non-binary individuals have long been left out of public discourse and deserve a voice. We hope to see this project deliver real-life results, and are open to collaborating with the centre in full capacity where appropriate.”

David Kelly

Image Credit: University of Vermont